Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here tonight. I hope we have a good debate here tonight. I am not so sure that we did not catch the NDP off-guard a couple of days ago when we did the last stage of discussion of this bill, because it seemed they came up with the same talking points all evening. Its members had about two points. Hopefully, tonight, we can have a broader discussion.
We do want to talk about Bill , which is about cluster munitions. The speech I have here tonight will lay out a good explanation of what Bill C-6 is about, why it needs to be put in place, and how it would be a good balance for Canadians, for Canadian troops, and for our responsibilities around the world.
I do not think that there is a person in this House who does not share with me the sense that the world would be far better off without cluster munitions. They cause death, injury, and damage wherever they are used, and they can create significant long-lasting humanitarian consequences for civilian lives and for civilian livelihoods. This is because cluster munitions disperse large numbers of smaller bomblets, increasing the risk that some of these munitions will strike non-combatants and that any submunitions that do not explode will cause an ongoing threat to civilian populations and reconstruction.
Munitions can be dropped from an aircraft, or they can be shot out of artillery or out of rockets to attack a variety of targets, such as armoured vehicles or troops. When the munitions release the bomblets, some will detonate, but many do not. The result is small, unexploded submunitions lying on the ground. Like anti-personnel mines, they must be located, disarmed, and disposed of safely before a backyard, family garden, public park, or any other land can be returned to any kind of normal use. The bomblets are, to an extent, even more problematic than land mines, because they scatter at random, which makes them much harder to locate, to identify, and then to destroy.
Today, almost 30 countries are contaminated by cluster munitions from past wars. Some are recent, but in other cases, wars that ended long ago have left a legacy that remains armed and lethal. In countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, for example, cluster munitions dropped more than 40 years ago during the Vietnam War continue to cause deaths and injuries. Similarly, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and more recently, Syria and Libya, are also plagued by unexploded cluster munitions used in these recent conflicts or, in the case of Syria, a civil war that is still going on.
Canada has always been committed to protecting civilians from the indiscriminate use of explosive remnants of war. Canada has never produced cluster munitions. I want to point that out because there may be some confusion here later, once the opposition begins speaking. Though we have had them in our arsenal in the past, we have never used them in our military operations. That needs to be understood as well. That is why we have no problems in getting rid of cluster munitions stockpiles in our possession, even before ratifying the convention.
It was only logical, therefore, that we played a leading role in the negotiations that resulted in the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008. The convention itself prohibits the use, the development, the production, the stockpiling, and the transfer of cluster munitions. I want to go through that list again. It prohibits the use, the development, the production, the stockpiling, and the transfer of cluster munitions. Canada is already in the process of implementing the convention. Some of its requirements will require the domestic implementation of legislation before Canada can ratify, which is what Bill is here to do.
The Government of Canada will be committing itself to refraining from making, using, stockpiling, or transferring cluster munitions. Again, that needs to be made clear before the debate goes any further. I will repeat it. We are going to refrain from making, using, stockpiling, or transferring cluster munitions. The bill would make it an offence for individual Canadians to do the same. This is the last major requirement here in Canada before we can ratify the convention. I urge hon. members to support it, so that we can take our place among the growing community of states parties that have renounced these weapons.
The bill also reflects important compromises that were made during the negotiation of the convention in order to ensure that the legitimate defence and security interests of the countries that are party to the treaty are upheld. We would much prefer a world in which all of our allies joined the convention, but the reality is that we are not there yet. Given this situation, Canada and others had to find a way to negotiate a strong treaty, while at the same time remembering that we need to continue to co-operate with some of our closest military allies who may not soon be in a position to join it.
This is in contrast with what I heard one of the official opposition members say the other night, that we just should not bother to co-operate at all with the United States. That is a position that is completely impractical, but the NDP members seemed to think that they could embrace that.
The Canadian Armed Forces work closely with our allies, especially the United States. Our national security depends on that co-operation. Canadian soldiers, sailors and air personnel regularly join with their American counterparts in training and combat. We exchange personnel so that each of us is closely familiar with the operational procedures of the other.
The United States has not joined the convention and while Canada will continue to urge our American friends to do so, it is necessary for us to collaborate in a manner which will respect our new obligations on the one hand, while also respecting our obligations to our close ally on the other.
In order to allow countries and their military forces to co-operate with one another, article 21 was included in the convention. However, the armed forces of a state party cannot co-operate with those of a non-party state if the activities involved are a crime for their individual members. I think that is obvious.
In order to allow Canadian Armed Forces personnel to continue to work, train, fight and co-operate with their American counterparts without the risk of individual criminal liability, under this bill, the principles that are in article 21 of the convention must also be reflected in Canadian criminal law.
The bill would do this by creating specific new offences that would apply to everyone in Canada and then by excluding from those offences personnel who co-operate as permitted by the convention. Such individuals must generally be Canadian officials or members of the Canadian Armed Forces. They must be engaging in permitted forms of military co-operation and that co-operation must be taken with members of armed forces of state that is not a party to the convention.
One of the important benefits of article 21 is that it allows countries that wish to join the convention to do so without having to give up military co-operation with those allies that have not yet become state parties to the convention.
It was essential that the treaty permit this kind of co-operation between the militaries of countries that have joined the treaty and the countries that have not. Without such provisions, many countries that wanted to address the impact of cluster munitions by joining the treaty would likely not have done so. Instead, with the inclusion of article 21, countries are not forced to choose between working with their allies in the interest of broader peace and security and their efforts to do all that they can to get rid of the scourge of cluster munitions.
Indeed, article 21 enables more countries to join the treaty, thereby moving us much closer to the eventual elimination of these munitions.
While some may not like the provisions of article 21, it represents a negotiated compromise between states, and it forms an integral part of the fabric of the convention.
Clause 11 of this bill, which we are addressing tonight, implements the terms of article 21. Clause 11 would ensure that Canadian Armed Forces personnel would be able to continue to work with the American armed forces or any other allied non-party state, such as Turkey, Israel or Poland, all states that have not signed on yet. That includes by joining their military units on exchange without exposure to criminal liability.
I need to point out that Canadian Armed Forces members will never be permitted to directly use cluster munitions at any time. If people hear anything different later tonight, that will be an attempt to mislead and misdirect people to what is the actual reality of this bill and the treaty.
A Canadian Armed Forces order will be issued to ensure this. However, given concerns that were raised in relation to clause 1, at committee we were able to work together and the government agreed to an amendment that was unanimously adopted. The amendment would ensure what the government had intended all along, and which the Canadian Forces order will reinforce, and that is that members of the Canadians Armed Forces may never directly use cluster munitions at any time, even when they are on exchange with a non-state party's military unit.
The Canadian Armed Forces order will reflect all of the requirements of Bill as ultimately adopted by Parliament. In addition, and going beyond the requirements of the convention, the order would also prohibit the transport of cluster munitions aboard carriers belonging to or under the control of the Canadian Armed Forces. It would further prohibit Canadian Armed Forces members on exchange with states that were not party to the convention from instructing and training in the use of cluster munitions.
Most of the requirements of the convention do not require domestic legislation. Bill only implements the requirements that make it a necessity. For example, the convention requires Canada itself not to develop, stockpile or use prohibited munitions. We have not, we will not develop them and we will not use them. Also, no legislation is needed to destroy the stockpiles that we do have. The government can do that on its own.
However, the treaty obliges Canada to extend these prohibitions to private companies and individuals in Canada by enacting the necessary criminal offences. It is these offences, along with the supporting definitions and exclusions, that form the core of Bill .
The bill would make it illegal for any person or organization in Canada, and members can go through the list as it is extensive, to develop, produce, acquire, use, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions. It would also make it a crime to aid, abet or counsel someone else to do these things, even if they were done in a country where cluster munitions were not illegal.
This expansion of Canadian criminal law then makes it necessary to exclude individuals within the Canadian Armed Forces and other public officials for scenarios in which they engage in the forms of military co-operation that are permitted by the convention.
One of the long-term challenges of this convention will be its full international acceptance or its universalization. If we really want to rid the world of the scourge of cluster munitions, we need to ensure that as many countries as possible sign and ratify the treaty and, more important, that they fulfill their obligations to destroy all stockpiles of these weapons. Ideally, all countries of the world would join the convention. However, until that day arrives, it is important for all of us who believe in this treaty and its goals to continue with those efforts.
The Government of Canada is committed to doing just that. Of course, we are not alone in encouraging other countries to join the convention. Many of our friends and allies, like the U.K., Australia, France, Germany and others, are also working hard in this regard, as all parties to the convention are expected to do.
As I have already noted, the United States has not joined the treaty and may not do so any time soon. Canada accepts that other countries are and should be free to make their own decisions on what international obligations to sign onto, but we nonetheless will continue to encourage the Untied States and others to support this historic and important treaty.
I know that all members in the House, like me, are anxious for Canada to complete its ratification of the treaty. As soon as the bill is enacted, Canada will be able to take the next step to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The government has already begun fulfilling its future commitments to do away with the cluster munitions under its control. As I have said, the Department of National Defence has destroyed the vast majority of the former stockpile of cluster munitions and hopes to finish that destruction process by the end of this summer.
Internationally, Canada has participated actively in the first four meetings of state parties to the treaty in order to encourage its universal acceptance. We have also voluntarily submitted annual reports on our implementation of the treaty. Once we have ratified it, the commitment to submit annual reports will become a legal obligation.
These reports, which each state party must submit, show the rest of the world what each country is doing to get rid of cluster munitions. They will also explain what countries are doing to clear contaminated areas and rehabilitate victims. Canada believes that such reporting is important and necessary to ensure that all countries are meeting their obligations, and that is why we are already voluntarily providing these reports.
Finally, hon. members should be aware that Canada is also helping some of the nearly 30 countries that are contaminated by cluster munitions to clean up these explosive remnants. Since 2006, we have contributed more than $215 million to Mine Action projects around the world, which address the problem of explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions.
For example, Canada has provided funding for projects in Laos for education on the risks of cluster munitions and for the clearance of those munitions. We have also provided funds to Bosnia and South Sudan to clear cluster munitions still lying around from the recent civil wars.
In November of last year, the hon. announced that the government would give an additional $10 million over 18 months to do even more to clear mines and cluster munitions to help victims of weapons and to educate local populations to be more aware of the risks.
In conclusion, I know hon. members on all sides of the House share my concerns about the tragic humanitarian consequences of these weapons. I urge all hon. members to support the bill so it can be enacted as quickly as possible and allow Canada to ratify the treaty and do our part to get rid of cluster munitions around the world.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate at third reading of Bill . It has had a rather long history. In fact, it goes back to a bill we had before the last prorogation of Parliament. It was actually a Senate bill. Just to remind people, this is a bill to implement an international treaty. At the time, I was deeply concerned that we had a pattern of having bills as important as Bill C-6 being initiated in the Senate. I say that because it is important that we are the ones to initiate legislation in the House.
However, we had a prorogation. The government actually did bring the bill back to the House of Commons, which is important. I had expressed my dismay and concern about the fact that it had its origins in the Senate. I had talked to the , as was already intimated by my colleague on the foreign affairs committee, the member from Saskatchewan. It was a matter of trying to convince the government that the Senate bill was problematic.
I went to the government and said that clause 11 was a problem. We have gone over this many times in the House. The person who actually negotiated this on behalf of the government said that the bill was flawed. This was not the opposition saying this. This was actually someone who negotiated the international treaty. To give some context, we send our brightest and most competent people to negotiate treaties on our country's behalf. As has been mentioned, the person who did that on behalf of our country looked at the bill and said that it undermined the integrity of the treaty we signed.
When we sign treaties, that is the first step. Then we have to implement them, because otherwise they are just a signature on a piece of paper. The implementation of the treaty is the bill we have, and it is absolutely critical to get it right.
I went across the aisle and talked to the and told him that this was a problem, particularly clause 11. I noted the fact that our own diplomat who negotiated the treaty had a problem with it. The minister listened, and I waited to see what response there would be. This was a Senate bill, remember. Sadly, the bill stayed put. The Conservatives did not change it, so it became a controversy not just here in Canada, as I will outline in my speech, but in the international community. This is not just about the opposition critiquing the bill. It is about what the international community is saying about the bill. It is about what our very own diplomats who negotiated the treaty are saying about the bill, which is that the bill is problematic.
It is worth noting that after almost two years of trying to engage the government to amend the bill, the Conservatives did allow one amendment. It is important to note that since 2011 I can count on one hand the number of times the Conservatives have accepted amendments.
It took a very long time to get a small amendment. It is absolutely true that I tried to work with the government on this. However, the amendment it brought forward was not enough to deal with the issues we have with the integrity of the bill as juxtaposed with the treaty.
It is very important to lay that out, because it shows that the government, first of all, took a long time to get the legislation going. We had signed the treaty. It took a couple of years to present legislation. At the same time, other countries that had signed the treaty had ratified it. It was put in place, and they were moving forward.
This is really important, because right now, as we speak, cluster munitions are being used in conflict. We are having to catch up, just like we had to do with land mines.
These are heinous munitions. It is difficult to understand how people contemplate these forms of munitions. Unlike land mines, which are planted in the ground, cluster munitions actually fall from the sky, and when they land, they explode with bomblets right across the terrain. No one is able to actually track them. Land mines are a bit different. We can find out from enemy combatants where they are planted. With cluster munitions, that is not the case.
The majority of victims, as we know, are civilians. Too many of them are children, because often children mistake them for toys. The said this himself. He was very moved when he went to Cambodia and heard testimony. I gave this testimony last time we debated the bill. Kids actually take these back to their homes and go to play with them, and they blow up, They remove limbs and also take lives. These are heinous things. We have to get this right.
The government took its time bringing legislation forward. It tried it in the Senate and prorogation ended it. The same is offered here, after I went to the government.
What were some of the concerns? They have been enumerated numerous times, but I want to give a critique, not just from me but from the international community, on Canada's legislation for the implementation of an international treaty. There are a couple that are worthy of noting. We have noted them before, but they require repetition.
Let me quote first from our friends from Norway, who were responsible for helping to get this treaty together. The Norwegian ambassador, Steffen Kongstad, whose country holds the presidency for the actual process of the treaty, said:
|| We would normally not comment on the internal process in other countries. But I can say that we would not present such a law in the Norwegian parliament. It seems somewhat inconsistent with the purpose of the convention.
I do not think I have to tell members that diplomats speak diplomatically. When a diplomat who is in charge of the overall integrity of the treaty says to one of the member states that is a signatory to the treaty that he would not actually bring this forward to his own parliament, that is a very strong, direct signal from a diplomat. It is basically saying, “You got it wrong. You need to change it.” It is important to note that.
The Red Cross is another international voice we have heard from. Again, it is very rare. It is in the mandate of the Red Cross that it does not comment on a country's activities, behaviours, et cetera, because it undermines the integrity of the Red Cross. It is to be objective. It was actually the Red Cross that cited our legislation as not being sufficient, as undermining the treaty.
It is perplexing. Many people are asking how clause 11, on interoperability, happened. We have had this debate back and forth between the government and members of my party about why we had to have this. Other countries and people who helped negotiate and implement this legislation are actually saying that it is not the case. We can have interoperability and still ensure that none of our forces, diplomats, or anyone involved in the theatre of war would have anything to do with cluster munitions. The government says we cannot do that but then says that we will never use them. It has an inconsistency in its argument.
The question is how we got here. I would argue that it is the way the government does policy, particularly on international affairs. What we learned after we heard from the former diplomat who actually negotiated the treaty was that after the treaty was negotiated and the government signed the treaty, it went to implement it. Who did the government go to exclusively? It went to the Department of National Defence. It should consult the Department of National Defence. It is very important. There is expertise. We heard from the department at committee. It was extraordinarily important to hear from it, because it has to know how to implement the actual legislation in theatre. However, what was astonishing, and it is a pattern with the government, was that it was not consulting the Department of Foreign Affairs.
It is astonishing. Here is how I understood and still understand the way things should work when it comes to international treaties, particularly around conflict. It is the role of the diplomats to negotiate these treaties, and it is the role of our diplomats and our , who is the top diplomat in cabinet, to look at how to implement legislation. He or she should be going to the department and seeking out the best advice from experts in diplomacy on how we implement a treaty in legislation.
That did not happen. What we had instead was the Department of National Defence having the first go at it, and we ended up with this clause 11. That's nothing to say against the military; it protects itself. We know that. That is what institutions and departments do.
What the department did was that it put in clause 11 in the bill, after section 22 of the treaty, which talks about interoperability. It was pretty clear, and I actually asked for an amendment to lift section 22 out of the treaty and to put it into the legislation. Then there would have been an absolutely direct connection between the treaty and legislation, by cut and pasting that treaty section. However, they did not do that. What they did was put in clause 11.
Clause 11 actually states, and part of this was changed through the amendment process, that Canadian Forces personnel could use cluster munitions. I say that, and most people think it is unbelievable that we would sign a treaty banning the use of cluster munitions, but then have in the implementing legislation of that very treaty a clause that would put Canadian Forces personnel into a situation where they could use cluster munitions.
We can see the inherent contradiction and paradox within the legislation. Why did the government do that? We heard from the former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Natynczyk, who said that this was very important, that there had to be clarity of purpose and direction when doing joint operations with our friends in the States. I could not agree with him more. It is true.
However, it does not preclude our having different protocols. Why? Well, when I and others were in Afghanistan, we knew on the ground that there were different caveats for different operations. They were clear. In fact, in ISAF's mandate on how it worked on the ground in Afghanistan, there were caveats for different forces who made up the international security forces in Afghanistan. They are caveats, different ways of operating in the field.
There should not be too many caveats, because they can undermine the coherence of a mission. However, we have them. The general knew that. However, he was able to get the government to put in what he wanted. What he wanted was clear: it was to have an exemption for the Canadian Forces in the case of interoperability and a scenario with the Americans where cluster munitions were used.
It is very important to note all of these facts: where the bill came from, who negotiated the bill, and the fact that we had this section 11, which the Red Cross and the diplomats who helped negotiate it for Canada, and Norway, which was responsible for the overall framework of the agreement, all said the same thing about. I will add here, just for good measure, because I know that the is a fan of Australian prime ministers, that we had a former Australian prime minister with the same party leaning as the saying this was a flawed bill.
If we put that all together, what do we have? It is a flawed bill that undermines not only the integrity of the treaty but also our reputation as a country, because our signature is on the bill. It is the legislation we are implementing.
All of these things come together with the following result. Let me read into the record what we were able to negotiate with the government as an amendment. We negotiated paragraph 11(1)(c), which would have allowed, as I was just explaining, the Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions. It is true that the government took that out. That has to be acknowledged, but what was left in there was the rest of clause 11, after it was amended. The government listened to us and took out one part of section 11, which would have allowed Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions. This inherent paradox was taken out. However, they left in the following:
|| Section 6 does not prohibit a person [in the forces]...in the course of military cooperation or combined military operations involving Canada and a state that is not a party to the Convention, from
||(a) directing or authorizing an activity that may involve the use, acquisition, possession, import or export of a cluster munition...
What that means in English is that we could have the Canadian Forces directing an operation using cluster munitions. Let us put forward a scenario: I have cluster munitions and I am in the Canadian Forces. Before, the exemption allowed the Canadian Forces to directly drop the bomb. Now, according to what we still have and what is problematic in the bill, we could direct another force to drop cluster munitions.
That is the first problem that we have with the bill. We are glad that they took out the part that the Canadian Forces shall not use them, but directing or authorizing activity for others to use them is still problematic. It is a matter of accountability.
Yet again, there is another problem with clause 11. It refers to the Canadian Forces “expressly requesting the use of a cluster munition”. Again, directing the use of cluster munitions is allowed by the Canadian Forces, and in paragraph (b) of clause 11, they can request their use. They can ask someone to bring in a raid and drop cluster munitions on a certain target if it is for the Canadian Forces. It makes no sense. We are saying this is a treaty to ban cluster munitions, but in clause 11 we are saying it is okay for the Canadian Forces to direct or request the use of cluster munitions.
Here is the part that I find fascinating. When this point was made to the government time and time again by me, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the former prime minister of Australia, other experts, and the diplomat who negotiated this treaty, the government said that it was true that it would allow the Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions, that there was an exemption here. However, here is the caveat: the government said that it would direct, through the Chief of Defence Staff, the banning of the use of cluster munitions.
This is fine, but it is simply a promise. We are talking about legislation to follow a treaty. We have a massive loophole like this, and the government is covering it by saying that it would direct our Chief of the Defence Staff to tell our forces that we shall never use them. Members can see the contradiction. Why would we not put it into legislation to ensure that there is no scenario where Canadian Forces would use cluster munitions?
This gets into the most important argument, which is the debate that we had at committee and which is still happening outside Canada in regard to our reputation in implementing the treaty. As my colleagues already mentioned, it is the worst legislation of any signatory to the treaty.
The government says that because of interoperability, it does not really want to put in these exemptions but that it has to because of the nature of our relationship with the United States. Other NATO countries can have interoperability, according to section 22 of the treaty, and follow it, which is what we hoped and negotiated for. However, we are Canada and we are special, so we must have these loopholes.
Here is the problem. In the case of Afghanistan, as I already mentioned, we were there with the Brits, the Dutch, and others who are signatories to the treaty. They do not have this exemption. They have interoperability with the Americans.
The fact of the matter is, and my colleagues know this, that we can be explicit as to what we will be doing in the field, be it through caveats or joint training. If we are doing joint training, it is pretty obvious that we would be using the opportunity in our joint training with our American friends to say that they know that we have signed this treaty, here is the legislation, here is what we will be doing to make sure that Canada, in joint operations with our friends in the States, will not be using cluster munitions in theatre. We have already done this with land mines.
Let me finish with this. We got the government to make one amendment, but it is clearly not sufficient when the government is still allowing troops to guide and request the use of cluster munitions. That is why clause 11 must go. That is why we will oppose this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to join this debate tonight.
I want to begin by thanking and congratulating all the members of the committee, who I believe did an exceptional job of pulling this bill together and giving us a bill that we in this government should be very proud of.
As members well know, cluster munitions can be delivered by aircraft, rockets, or artillery shells. Rather than detonating on impact, they open beforehand and spread a number of smaller bomblets over the target area. There are variations intended for use against different kinds of targets, but all of them are capable of causing tremendous damage. Because they can strike a large area, there is a greater risk that non-military targets or non-combatants will be hit. With some types, especially those which contain large numbers of small bomblets, any remnants that do not detonate as intended can remain lethal long after the conflict itself has ended.
If the bomblet explodes later, the result is devastating, with victims sustaining horrific injuries or even being killed. The unacceptable harm to civilians caused by cluster munitions was the motivation for negotiations on a treaty to address these weapons. After three years of sometimes difficult negotiations, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in Dublin in May 2008. The convention entered into force in August 2010. It builds on and complements other international agreements that address weapons that are prone to having indiscriminate effects. The convention prohibits countries that ratify it from using, acquiring, developing, retaining and producing cluster munitions, weapons that continue to kill and maim innocent people long after wars have ended.
It also prohibits them from assisting or encouraging anyone to engage in any of those activities. The convention entered into force in August 2010. Canada has already taken concrete steps to fulfill its future commitments under the convention. Canada has never directly used cluster munitions and even though we have not yet ratified the convention, we have already committed not to use them in the future either. Canadian companies have never produced these munitions, and while Canada does not have an existing stockpile, the Department of National Defence has already removed cluster munitions from operational stocks and they are in the process of being destroyed.
Canada is also active in promoting the universalization and implementation of the convention with international partners. It has voluntarily submitted annual transparency reports under the convention. Canada has contributed more than $215 million since 2006 to mine action projects which address the impacts of explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions.
During his visit to Laos on October 15, 2013, the hon. announced $1 million in Canadian support for two projects aimed at clearing unexploded ordnance in Laos, the most heavily contaminated country in the world in terms of cluster munition remnants. Hon. members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development will recall that the minister undertook to set aside $10 million over the next 18 months to continue Canada's proud tradition of support to demining efforts, victim assistance and risk awareness programs. All of these activities are being implemented before Canada's ratification of the convention.
Only a small part of the convention actually requires legislation, and in keeping with its commitment, the government is now proceeding with this element to complete the package. The prohibiting cluster munitions act would fully implement the legislative requirements of the convention and its enactment by Parliament is the only major step that must still be taken before Canada can ratify the convention and join other states parties in working toward its full global acceptance and implementation.
For this treaty to be effective, as many countries as possible must join it and ensure that its provisions are enforced. Ideally, all countries will join, ensuring universalization of the treaty. To date, 84 states parties are already bound by it and another 29 states have signed it. If the bill before us becomes law, Canada can then take the final steps and ratify the convention.
The government is committed to do all it can to help ensure that the treaty is effective. To that end, the government will collaborate with our friends and allies, like the U.K. and Australia, as well as other states parties, to promote the universality of the treaty by ensuring that as many countries as possible join it and adhere to its requirements.
Bill will only implement those parts of the convention that require penal legislation in Canada. Other provisions are carried out by other means. The obligation to advocate in favour of the convention's norms, for example, will be implemented through diplomatic channels, while programming is in place to provide assistance to states affected by cluster munitions.
Let me turn now to those provisions that do require legislative implementation and that are included in Bill , which is before us today.
The convention requires states parties to extend the prohibitions it imposes into domestic criminal law. The bill, when enacted, will prohibit the use, development, making, acquisition, possession, movement, import, and export of cluster munitions.
The bill will also prohibit the stockpiling of cluster munitions in Canada through the broader proposed offence of possession in Canada. This offence will cover any form of possession, including stockpiling, and can be easily enforced and, if necessary, prosecuted in Canada's criminal justice system.
The bill will also prohibit anyone from aiding or abetting another person in the commission of a prohibited activity. This will capture a number of potential cross-border scenarios where people or organizations subject to Canadian law engage in activities that are prohibited by the convention and will also ensure that those who are subject to Canadian law can be prosecuted for the offences in Canada.
While many countries could agree to an immediate ban on cluster munitions, each country has its own defence policy and security concerns, and it is clear that not all states are currently prepared to accept this. Some of the countries that prefer a different approach to the problem are our friends and allies.
Other members of this House have suggested that Canada simply prohibit cluster munitions entirely and confront our allies with a choice between not having these munitions or not co-operating with Canada. The approach of the government, which is reflected in this bill, is more nuanced, and it is the approach which was ultimately agreed upon when the convention itself was negotiated.
Under the bill, and the convention itself, Canada will not have cluster munitions. We will not directly use cluster munitions. However, we will continue to co-operate with our allies in training and actual military operations. Some of these operations could well involve the use of these munitions by our allies, but Canada will not expressly request the use of cluster munitions if the choice of munitions used is within its exclusive control.
The policy that we are agreeing to in our international obligations will be given the force of law for Canadians by this bill. No person in Canada may possess, make, or use a prohibited munition, and no person in Canada will be permitted to take any part in activities, such as design or manufacture, even if it takes place in a country which does not ratify the convention.
On the other hand, no public servant or member of the Canadian Armed Forces will be subject to prosecution and punishment for participating in the kinds of Canadian co-operation with other countries that are specifically allowed by this treaty.
The bill will subject anyone who engages in illicit activities with respect to cluster munitions to prosecution and punishment, and it will assure other countries that we will not use private companies to retain stockpiles or manufacturing capacity that we would be prohibited from having as a states party.
However, we must take a responsible and prudent approach in deploying the criminal law so that we do not punish our own solders for military co-operation activities that are permitted under the convention.
The bill does not always use exactly the same language as the convention. This is because the convention is an international treaty that speaks to countries, while the bill is Canadian criminal law that speaks to the Canadians who are expected to obey it and the courts that will be called upon to apply it.
One issue that has been raised is whether the bill should make it an offence for a person to invest in a company that makes cluster munitions. It would send the wrong signal to markets to criminalize investments as such, it is not required by the convention, and it would be very difficult to enforce the practice. What the proposed legislation would do, however, is make it an offence to aid or abet another person or company in activities such as the making, development, or transfer of cluster munitions. This includes not only investment scenarios but other forms of encouragement or assistance as well.
If a person in Canada knowingly assists or encourages a company to commit a prohibited act, whether this is by investing capital resources or by providing technical or engineering expertise, then that person would be committing the offence even if the company aided or abetted is in another country where making the munitions is not a crime. This is an important balance to strike. If someone buys a company to make weapons offshore or specifically invests in order to fund illicit activities for a higher profit, it should be and would be a crime. On the other hand, if a Canadian, without any knowledge or intention to aid or abet the production of cluster munitions, holds a few shares in a large company that makes munitions, it should not and would not be a crime.
The bill would not implement investment policy but would establish criminal offences that can be prosecuted and punished. The use of established criminal law principles for aiding and abetting to draw the line between what is permitted and what is punishable would protect Canadians and ensure that the legislation complies with their charter rights.
The legislation before the House is solidly in step with Canada's commitment to protecting civilians against the indiscriminate effects of explosive remnants of war. Canada's ratification of the convention will give a strong signal of that commitment.
I am proud to support Bill , which would enable us to ratify the convention and begin to end the scourge of cluster munitions, once and for all. I urge members of the House to join me in supporting this bill. There is work to be done under the convention, and the sooner Canada can take its rightful place with other state parties, the better.
Mr. Speaker, I would not say it is a delight, but it is absolutely a privilege to stand and speak to Bill . I want to make it clear right from the beginning that I do not think that any of us in the House actually support the use of cluster munitions. As my colleague just said, many of us are parents and grandparents. As a teacher I have worked for a peaceful world for all children for many years of my life.
I am also one of those fortunate ones who has never actually lived in a place engaged in war, as many of us in this room, yet today, with technology what happens in war is brought right into our living rooms through television, the Internet, and our social media. Even if we did not see those images, the description of what cluster bombs and land mines can do is etched in our memories.
I am sure many of us in this room were activists to get rid of land mines. Many of us have worked very hard against the use of cluster bombs as well. Someone described it earlier as little D-sized batteries, hundreds and hundreds of them, exploding and the impact of that explosion hitting something like two to five football fields. When we have that image in our minds, especially now that soccer is being played and we can all see the size of the field, we wonder how many children get impacted. It is not just talking about something that happens overseas, it is also about what our soldiers had to face when they went to Afghanistan. They were in situations where there were land mines and cluster bombs.
Having said that, it is with a great deal of reluctance that I am going to be speaking against the motion that is before us. I was very proud of the day that my country, Canada, signed the UN convention. We were not the only ones; 113 countries from around the world signed that convention and 84 countries have ratified it. We signed the convention in 2008 and here we are in 2014 debating this.
Why has it taken this long for the bill to come into the House? It entered the House a few days before the end of this session under time allocation. If any bill should not be forced through time allocation, it should be a bill like this. We should get to have that kind of debate that is necessary and make sure that we end up with legislation that really works well, especially when the legislation is tackling something as fundamental and as serious as cluster bombs. That is what we should be doing.
I am not going to spend too much time talking about time allocation because that is the way the government does business. It does not really want to hear serious debate or a different point of view. It wants to limit that. In my riding there are people who are concerned and they want me to come to the House and represent them and speak for them. I have constituents in Newton—North Delta who care very deeply about the use of cluster munitions. They are absolutely opposed and they would understand why I am standing in the House today in opposition to this piece of legislation.
Our foreign affairs critic, the member for does an amazing job at committee. I know that he is very persuasive. He has often persuaded me to look at things differently. I know how hard he works, how knowledgeable he is on this file, and how much he cares about Canada's reputation in the international arena. I also know that we would have to go a long way to find a member of Parliament who is more interested in working on this file in a non-partisan way, in a way that will best serve Canada and best serve us in our international community.
This was an opportunity missed by my colleagues across the way. If they had heard not only his concerns but concerns expressed by others, including some of us, and had actually taken a look at section 11 of this legislation, and if they had removed that, then the government would have had the kind of coverage we have heard that the section is supposed to present.
The agreement already has section 22 in it. The interoperability clause is there. Our member, my esteemed colleague, the foreign affairs critic, the member for actually agreed, or offered, to lift the wording from the convention and put it into this legislation word for word, so that it would provide the kind of protection we heard about from our colleagues across the way.
That really was not the intention here. It is only when I listened to him that I began to see why this bill is as flawed as it is today. It may be the process it went through even before it came here. Of course we know that our colleagues across the way do have an allergy to data, science, listening to experts, or anything that might disagree with them. That would mean that they might actually have to change their minds on something. In parliamentary democracy that is supposed to happen. That is the way it works. Otherwise, there would be no need for us to debate. We could all just come in here with our minds already made up, sit, and say that is it. However, that is not how we are set up.
Here we have section 11. I heard the member for talking about that particular section and the fact that whenever we go to war we do put all kinds of caveats. We do have all kinds of arrangements that we make as to what we are going to do and what we are not going to do.
Why is it, in this case, that we have that reluctance toward doing that? The member was talking about section 11 and that we have categorically said that Canada will not use cluster bombs. Then we have a section in this bill that says, however, we will direct or ask or lead to. It reminded me of Monty Python. I do not know if members ever watch much British television. Monty Python is extremely funny, but it is also extremely serious. It deals with some horrible issues in a very entertaining way. As the member for was going through the bill, I thought that it was beginning to sound like a Monty Python sketch, in which we are going to say, “We will not use cluster munitions. We will not; however, we can direct or take direction or give direction for the use thereof.”
Therein lies the problem with this bill. That is why, in good conscience, being a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher, I could not possibly support this. There is an escape hatch in this bill that is miles wide.
We either believe in the use of cluster munitions or we believe in banning them. We cannot have these halfway measures when it comes to something as critical as this. I think about my own grandchildren, and I think, “There, but for the grace of God, go they.” They could have been unfortunate enough to have been born in a war-torn country where, as little kids, they pick up little batteries or what they think are little toys that could explode. We all know how horrific that is. I do not have to paint that picture. I actually do not have the heart to paint that kind of a picture. Why would we want to have an escape hatch that is a mile wide when we know that the interoperability clause in section 22 already gives protection and cover to Canadian soldiers?
I heard a lot about our neighbour, the U.S., and how we co-operate with the Americans and we work closely with them, and they are our great ally. All of that is true. However, we do not always agree with everything that our colleagues to the south of us believe in. We just found out recently that we do not agree with them on some pretty major issues, like maybe pipelines. However, on the other hand, when we deal with the Americans, when we have gone into war with them, we have stipulated what our forces are going to do or not going to do. Those are the kinds of agreements that are made because when we decide to go into a place where our soldiers go, we do not say, “Just go and do whatever.” When we are working in partnership, whether with the U.K. or Australia or the U.S.—
An hon. member: NATO.
Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims: NATO. I thank my colleague from Burnaby.
It does not matter. We ourselves, as a sovereign nation, write down the parameters, the caveats, the restrictions, and then we decide to expand them.
For me it is not good enough to say, “Because the U.S. has not signed this particular convention, therefore the legislation we are going to introduce right now has to have an escape hatch a mile wide.” That is just not going to sit right with me, nor with many Canadians who are looking to us to set an example. Let me just say that we are not the only ones, sitting across this House or at the committee, who realize that the government has signed a convention and that weakens that convention, that signature on that piece of paper, through this legislation. I know my colleagues get very upset whenever there is some thought that somehow Canada's international standing might have suffered slightly over the last few years. I would say that we have been smacked a few times recently by the international community.
We had the rapporteur on first nations who came in and wrote a pretty damning report. Our reaction to it was to attack him instead of looking at the real plight of many of our first nations communities. The ILO has looked at some of our approaches to labour issues and it has not had many kind words to say about us either. We no longer have a seat on the Security Council. I have had the pleasure, when I was in my other file, of talking to many international diplomats in Ottawa who were saying how our international standing had been damaged.
We have gone from being the peacekeeper and a country that played a critical role in bringing different people together to build a consensus to a country that signs a convention and then, through this House with a majority, looks at weakening what it signed.
Here is a quote from the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser:
|| It is a pity the current Canadian government, in relation to cluster munitions, does not provide any real lead to the world. Its approach is timid, inadequate and regressive.
That hurts. It hurts me when I hear the term “regressive” being used to describe Canada in the international community. I can remember the days when I taught social studies and history 12 . I would talk with great pride about the role Canada plays on the international stage, and when we get things like this, it does begin to disturb us.
Here is a quote from Paul Hannon, executive director of Mines Action Canada. He said:
|| Canada should have the best domestic legislation in the world. We need to make it clear that no Canadian will ever be involved with this weapon again but from our reading this legislation falls well short of those standards.
Let me explain again what we are saying in this legislation.
By the way, we do not have difficulty with this legislation. It is only clause 11, and if that section had been removed, we would not be here debating this bill tonight. It could have been passed and gone on to other stages. However, the reason we are here tonight is that we have a huge contradiction. We are saying that Canadian soldiers and Canada would not use cluster munitions. On the other hand, we are saying that if we are working with another country, we may direct their use. I cannot fathom how that is adequate. For me, as I said, this is where we enter the land of Monty Python.
My colleague earlier also talked about the Red Cross. Those of us who know the workings of the Red Cross know that it very rarely gets involved in political debate. Its work is more of advocacy and delivering services on the ground. However, in this case it was almost forced to get involved, because it sees first-hand the real impact of these cluster munitions. The Red Cross is on the front line.
The Red Cross said that clause 11:
||...could permit activities that undermine the object and purpose of the convention and ultimately contribute to the continued use of cluster munitions rather than bringing about their elimination.
That is a pretty damning comment from a group that does not really get involved in politics.
Let me get back to saying what we would really like to see. Of course we want to have the strongest legislation possible to ban cluster munitions, but this particular bill is not it. I would urge my colleagues to take it back and accept amendments, which they have not done so far. Let us make sure that this bill would do what we want it to.
At this point, the bill is really problematic. As long as it has clause 11, it is impossible for us to support this bill, because with that little piece in there, this bill would not actually ban the use of cluster munitions 100%. We either do or we do not. There is no halfway.